Contemporary art is always a tough cookie. Contemporary art museums are tough, too. First, you’ve got to find them. Then you’ve got to figure out the art, too.
And while we very often make mention of the fact that Mexico City has more museums than any other city – save precious London – we don’t often put those many museums together with the city’s electric – and very passionate – contemporary art scene.
But like everything chic and sassy, Mexico City’s contemporary art museums are relatively discreet. They’ll occasionally host the blow-out party for the kids, but by and large, they keep a low profile – even while “hiding” some of the city’s most earth-shattering recent aesthetic discoveries.
There’s a lot to look at. Here are five of the best places you’re most likely to find it:
The Jumex Foundation, long regarded as the premier corporate collection of contemporary art in Latin America, began the Jumex museum in Polanco to at least occasionally show off some its collections. Mostly the David Chipperfield-designed museum in Polanco shows off the fact that contemporary art is still not that easy to find. The Jumex Foundation website (redesigned multiple times since the museum opened in 2012) has gotten a little better at promoting shows as they’re scheduled to open, and that includes nearly a full slate for 2017. Check the link below for an idea.
Address: Blvd. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, col. Polanco
Phone: 5395 2618
Among the most beautiful of museums in the south of the city, the Carillo Gil was named for the contemporary collector and mid-20th-century super-benefactor, Dr. Álvar Carrillo Gil. With a permanent collection of some 2,000 pieces by blue-chip Mexican artists like Orozco, Rivera and especially Siqueiros, it’s a must-see for the twilight of Mexican Modernism. But a renewed focus on contemporary art keeps things fresh and includes 300 drawings, paintings, engravings, lithographs, collages, photographs, installations, artists’ books, sculptures, videos and more.
The University Museum of Contemporary Art of UNAM is the first museum created ex profeso — that is — expressly for contemporary art in all Mexico. Opened just in 2008, MUAC has hosted and exhibited striking international surveys and curated exhibitions of some of the most important art in the world. Designed by Teodoro González de León, the building gives space to lively debate and critical experimentation for in which the very axis of museum-studies centers squarely on the individual visitor.
At the end of the 1970s, Oaxacan artist, Rufino Tamayo, began to acquire works to form his own collection of contemporary international art. He later donated the collection to the Mexican people in order to better present the world artistic panorama to them. Inaugurated just in 1981, it became part of the National Institute of Fine Arts just a few later. Even after the artist’s death, the museum continues to host lively and compelling exhibitions of important international and Mexican artists.
Sometimes far more famous for the building, constructed some 100 years ago in Germany it was moved to Mexico in 1903. Though it’s been put to a good half dozen uses since then, as one of the city’s liveliest contemporary art museums it’s been going strong since 1975. The truly impressive renovations from 2004-2010 have resulted in the striking space for exhibitions and performances that we see today. Far from a stodgy collection of galleries, today the Chopo museum host round the year screenings, concerts, and exhibitions of some of the city’s and the world’s most impressive creators.
Address: Dr. Enrique González Martínez 10, col. Santa María la Ribera
Phone: 5546 8490
Art and technology are two faces of human creativity, two that are also closely related, despite the differences they apparently have with each other. What art does on many occasions has been achieved thanks to a specific technical development, a technology whose existence allows the artists to enhance or limit their creative work. Yes, it conditions it, but possibly also encourages it to transcend those limitations.
In this sense, the relationship between one and another human activities could be found in virtually any era, but it is certainly in recent times when technology has a presence, so persistent, somehow so inescapable, that art has been benefited for incorporating it. Both as a resource, an instrument, as part of the examination of contemporary reality, when many of our practices and interactions almost necessarily pass through a technological device.
Thus, somehow the ideal professed by Nietzsche on the need to transform life in a work of art, but this time through art and technology. Somehow the aesthetic sensibility, the discovery of the admirable or the frankly beautiful that any of us can perceive, finds a vehicle, a means of transmission and expression in how art can be magnified through technology.
Nowadays, it is becoming more and more complex to achieve high levels of consciousness, and to create a community without being outside of technology, but ww can use it as a tool to improve our sensitive abilities. To the same extent that we depend on technology to survive, it has become part of our lives, even in its most spiritual and even transcendental recesses. Art, now more than ever, demands to be a vehicle to explore different states that bring us closer to the dimensions of the infinite
Ilumina is an installation created by the artist Pablo Gonzalez Vargas, who through a deep exploration with the power of interconnectivity, proposes a method to improve the energy field of the planet. Pablo Gonzalez created a majestic interactive sculpture of light and sound that is activated by the emotional states of people, generating a beautiful light show and a sound landscape where the participants enter a state of coherence and deep harmony with themselves and with each other.
Ilumina is a metallic art monument, completed with aluminum and LED lights that together form an architectural piece full of harmony. The piece of art combines technology with a design of ancient wisdom. Ilumina has a program that responds to external stimuli, being able to shine more while more “coherent” is the group that hosts, generating a unique shared experience.
Ilumina is a chilling visual experience, and the volunteers who participate in the exercise of meditative immersion that lasts three minutes, are transported to a state of coherence and deep harmony with themselves, with their fellow participants and with the cosmos through a patented fusion of modern technology and transpersonal art.
The biometric sensors are connected to the ear lobes of each participant, which measures their unique state of coherence and averages them together. This is how lighting design and moving soundscapes respond to a unique algorithm, a product of HeartMath that uses biometric sensors for personal self-training in the regulation of emotional states where the sculpture becomes brighter to the extent that the users experiment with their emotions.
The team that created Ilumina included about 20 people from different disciplines and contributions. There was a large industrial design team that shaped the exact model that was taken to manufacturing. Marco Kalach worked with an expert manufacturing workshop, because as it is a public use facility in particular events, it had to comply with all the rules, structural regulations and with protection codes. The executive producer of the project was Gaby Vargas, who was responsible for the expertise at HeartMath, and joined by mexican musicians and audio engineers to make the experience of 360 degrees of immersive sound, led by Billy Mendez. The lighting team, directed by Paolo Montiel, coordinated all the programming and lighting design that makes symbiosis with the audio.
It was at Burning Man 2012, where Pablo Gonzalez Vargas created an art car called Mayan Warrior: a luminescence project and a spectacular audio show featuring pieces by the artist Alex Gray and musical performances by elite artists from Mexico and around the world.
In the penultimate edition of Burning Man, Pablo Gonzalez and his team decided to go a step beyond the great proposal that is Mayan Warrior, by presenting Ilumina, this piece of sacred geometry that radiates not only light but an algorithmic sacrality, it’s as mystical and hypnotic as an art piece can get. The tower of almost 12 meters high illuminated the Nevada desert at the Burning Man Festival 2017, and users managed to enter a mental state full of concentration characterized by a complete absorption, a wonderful moment of loss of the notion of spacetime.
It is expected that later there will be replicas of these sculptures, so that they can reach new locations around the world, and we can experience this amazing spectacle of light and the soundscape that connects us with the profound mysticism that exists in ourselves and that highlights the interconnectivity of our planet with the global energy fields.
Here are some photos of this beautiful project, in which lies the probability of a coherent and luminous future that would be worth living.
If you want to know more about this beautiful project or about the creative artist and allies that integrate it, visit their social media channels:
Though the internet makes lots more information available to lots more people, Mexico City libraries have simply not been supplanted. Charged with continually re-inventing themselves, and their places in the public imagination, one can still encounter eras gone by and great historical minds in a library as in few other places.
Knowledge, after all, belongs to everyone. Opening a book, reading it at a study, or just meeting in the silence of one these Mexico City libraries enhances concentration, and provides a welcome respite from everything going on out there in the world.
Of all Mexico City libraries, the oldest were part of the church and one or another of its offshoot organizations. Among these was the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, founded in the 1530s and surviving today as the Biblioteca José María Lafragua. Most of these ecclesiastical libraries were not truly open to the public, and Mexico had to wait for the National Library of Mexico, inaugurated by Benito Juárez in 1867 to enjoy the benefits of a truly public library system.
The list below is intended to let you enjoy some of that system, too.
Opened just ten years ago, in 2006, the Vasconcelos is visited by thousands for the sheer spectacle of its innovative design. Graced by the iconic whale from artist, Gabriel Orozco, it’s always a good library for art and visual spectacle. The facade retains something of a colonial appearance, but for sheer scale, and jaw-dropping space, the interior must be experienced.
We’ve written a lot about it in these pages, but the UNAM library with the Juan O’Gorman murals remains one of the most outstanding of all Mexico City libraries. As a UNESCO site with some 428,000 volumes in the collection, it’s the biggest in Mexico, but lots of folks visit just to see the facade and the surrounding grounds.
Opened by Benito Juárez in 1867, there’s still a good one million books inside, today administered by the folks from UNAM. Originally located in the San Agustín church in the city center, the current building was opened in 1979. Geometric, and massive, it’s an extraordinary place to visit.
Specializing in economic materials, this collection of some 86,350 books and 114,852 journals is administered by the Secretary of Finance and Public Credit. Founded in 1928, it’s one of the cities true public art spectacles. Inside the main nave of the old Oratory of San Felipe Neri “El Nuevo,” the baroque façade outside is just the beginning. Inside, the murals are futuristic, and not to be missed.
One of Centro’s truly outstanding historical buildings, for centuries it was the convent of the Clarisas from the 16th century. Today it’s something like a “Library of Congress” with a stunning collection of publications and artifacts, but also with a lush, deep, dark intellectual interior, that beckons from centuries past.
Address: Tacuba 29, Centro Histórico
Photographs this page: Flickr – Creative Commons